BJ The Chicago Kid Talks Future Collaborations, Musical Influences And His Latest Star-Studded Album,‘Gravy’
11 Jan 2024
Interview by Jadene Rogerson
BJ The Chicago Kid has built a career with one of the most soulful voices in music along with lending his talents to songwriting for some of the biggest artists in the world including Kanye West and Stevie Wonder. For many fans, BJ came to prominence in 2016 with his first major project ‘In My Mind’, which earned him several GRAMMY nominations including ‘Best R&B Album’, ‘Best Traditional R&B Performance’ and ‘Best R&B Performance’. Day one fans may be familiar with the Chicago-based musician’s early work including ‘A Taste of Chicago’, ‘The New Beginning’ or most notably his 2014 mixtape The M.A.F.E Project, which was an exceptional stepping stone into the world of music. Since his earlier days BJ The Chicago Kid has gone on to work with T.D.E alumni Schoolboy Q for their 2014 hit ‘Studio’ which earned the two a GRAMMY nomination for ‘Best Rap/Sung Collaboration’, fellow Chicago musician Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Kehlani and so many more.
Collaborations, GRAMMY nominations, and past projects aside, BJ The Chicago Kid has sealed the end of 2023 with the delivery of his latest album ‘Gravy’, a soothing but sweet 15-track album that taps into Soul and R’n’B, while exploring a newly nearly uptempo sound, featuring the likes of Robert Glasper, longtime collaborator Freddie Gibbs, Chlöe, Coco Jones and plenty of other gifted musicians. A man of many musical talents and some very impressive accolades behind him, 2024 is set to be another great year for the Chicago-based singer-songwriter, taking time out of a very busy schedule. Here’s what happened when we caught up with him…
I’ve been following you since your 2014 mixtape The M.A.F.E project, tracks like ‘Perfect’, ‘Soul of a Woman’ and ‘Real Love Never Dies’ are still in my rotation. Did you always know you wanted to become a musician?
Yes, I always knew I wanted to become a musician, I feel like the foundation for me was already set, especially being the eldest of 3 sons, they would experiment with drums, and there was music always around me, around my home, in the car and of course at church, where I would always sit by the musicians. I could tell you so many stories of being in the car with my family and no matter who was controlling the radio the music was always good, my mum, dad, and brothers all have great taste in music. In terms of interests I played basketball with my friends when I was growing up, but ultimately it was always music, it’s always been magnetic to me, I’ve always levitated to it.
Your vocals are so soulful who influenced you growing up and when you make music?
There were a lot of artists I won’t lie, it’s kind of hard to pick, back then there was so much more variety. If I could highlight a few artists that inspired me growing up they would be Tony! Toni! Toné!, Musiq Soulchild, The Clark Sisters, Glenn Lewis, Raphael Saadiq, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and If I’m honest there are so many more, that’s why that question is so hard for me because I feel like I always miss someone out.
You’ve always been so consistent with your sound, would you ever branch out or tap into any other genre?
Honestly, in regards to my music, I do whatever I want, no genre is off limits, I look at being a musician as an art form, I don’t look at being a musician as a job. If I could explore another genre it would be Country music, the storytelling, the melodies, the harmonies, the uniqueness of each track, Country music for me is completely parallel to my genre. I’m a chameleon who can do anything. Blues, R’n’B, and Soul are genres that are naturally embedded in me.
You’ve written for the likes of Steve Wonder and Kanye West how did these huge collaborations come around? You’ve additionally worked with School Boy Q, Kehlani, Chance The Rapper, and various other artists, is there anyone else you’d like to work with?
Being at the right place at the right time, always working on my craft to be ready and feel like someone feels I’m worthy enough to work with someone. Being a solid person helps as well.
In terms of working with other artists, I would love to work with Cee Lo Green, I think he knows how to paint a picture when it comes to lyrics and melodies, Little Dragon, Erykah Badu, Don Toliver, I think that would be a crazy mix
Your latest album ‘Gravy’ tell me about it, you’ve linked up with Freddie Gibbs, Chlöe, Coco Jones, Robert Glasper, and more, what was the process?
Some of the artists I already knew before putting the album together, so linking up with them for Gravy was easy and natural, almost felt like hitting up a family member. I created and recorded the album in 7 days with a producer called Yeti Beats, where we worked seamlessly together. In terms of the tracks I genuinely loved making all of them, I don’t have one favourite track at the moment, all of them are my babies. I’m happy with the reception of the project so far.
What can people expect from you in the future?
In the future you are just going to get more BJ, more tours, more shows, more visuals, but right now I’m keeping all of my plans a secret, so you’ll just have to be on the lookout.